Functional cheese with accelerated ripening

The INGREEN project is producing novel functional cheeses with accelerated ripening time using a newly developed sustainable biotechnological approach. These cheeses contribute to the bioeconomy as they are produced from the side stream feedstocks from the dairy industry. Our industrial project partner Mambelli, an Italian cheese-making company, is providing caciotta, ricotta, squacquerone whey for the project’s experiments. The opportunity to create more value from their side stream is of particular interest to Mambelli, as their cheesemaking processes produce 40,000 litres of whey per week.

To recover valuable yeast biomass compounds from the whey side stream, INGREEN is using a tailored biotechnological process based on the use of GRAS Y. lipoltytica strains. After successful lab-scale results, the biotechnological approach is currently being upscaled to a 20-liter fermenter installed for biomass production. The end goal is to validate this tailor-made technology at industrial level and benchmark it against competing technologies.

The experimental results to date have been very promising and have been validated by models for biomass growth. What we have found so far is that the INGREEN prototype cheeses, compared to the benchmark, have a very distinctive taste, reduced ripening times and specific aroma and textural profiles depending on the strain used. Using yeast fermentation has led to some positive results regarding the acceleration of proteolysis which reduces the ripening time of the cheeses.

Below are photos of the most recent prototypes of functional cheeses produced by the University of Bologna at Mambelli using the INGREEN optimized Y. lipolytica biotechnological approach.

Figure 1. Innovative caciotta cheese prototypes obtained with the INGREEN approach and their respective benchmarks after 18 days of ripening. On the vertical line you can find cheeses produced using Y. lipolytica biomass of the strains PO17, RO3 and Y3.

On the horizonal line, different treatments were applied on the cheese surfaces: the control (the benchmark) uses standard food preserves; Y. lipolytica uses only the biomasses obtained in the fermenter; Y. lipolytica + E202 uses the selected biomasses of the yeast together with potassium sorbate (E202). 

Figure 2. Cheese slices of prototypes obtained with the INGREEN approach using the selected Y. lipolytica strain PO17 or a combination of PO17 and potassium sorbate (E202). Slices are shown over time during the 35 days of ripening and compared with the respective benchmark where standard food preserves were used. 

Figure 3. Cheese slices of prototypes obtained with the INGREEN approach using the selected strain RO3 or a combination of RO3 and E202. Slices are shown over time during the 35 days of ripening and compared with the respective benchmark where standard food preserves were used. 

Figure 4. Cheese slices of prototypes obtained with the INGREEN approach using the selected strain Y3 or a combination of Y3 and E202. Slices are shown over time during the 35 days of ripening and compared with the respective benchmark where standard food preserves were used. 

As the INGREEN project continues, the partners will keep searching to further reduce the ripening time and improve cheese functionality. In addition to applying the microbial biomass on the cheese surface, the use of the microbial adjunct biomass directly into the cheese curd during cheesemaking will be evaluated. Furthermore, INGREEN would like to develop an eco-friendly approach to extend the shelf-life to avoid the use of antimicrobials and antibiotics on cheese surface through the exploitation of the yeast characteristics.

INGREEN is developing functional innovative ingredients from paper and agro-food side streams through biotechnological processes for food, feed, pharma/nutraceutical, cosmetics, and bio-degradable packaging.  The project seeks to obtain at least 20% more value from the project side-stream feedstocks than state-of-the-art methods and create new cross-sector interconnections in the bio-based economy.

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